DC: Fringe: Marat/Sade

by Peter Weiss
directed by Michael Dove
produced by Forum Theatre
H Street Playhouse
1365 H Street NW
Remaining performances:
Thursday, July 24th, 8:00pm
Friday, July 25th, 8:00pm
Saturday, July 26th, 8:00pm
Sunday, July 27th, 8:00pm
(then continuing through August 10th)

Fringe is usually about new works and self-written pieces, but when you consider established plays that make sense at a Fringe Festival, Marat/Sade is certainly one of them. Just reading the full title of this play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, reveals that is no ordinary work of theatre.

It is 1808, and we the audience have entered the Charenton Asylum in France. We are there to attend a theatrical performance, put on by the inmates, depicting, obviously, the persecution and assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, which occurred just fifteen years ago. As we walk into the house of the H street playhouse (which has been transformed into the aforementioned institution thanks to the commendable work of the design team, painted with an unnatural shade of green, and lit by hanging, cold bulbs), we are greeted by the director of Charenton, Coulmier (Steve Beall). One of the patients, Basil (Joe Brack), ushers us in, recommending we sit “anywhere with a seat.”

We are introduced to the patients, who have various problems, such as melancholia and paranoia, and the story of Marat begins. The patients get excited at the more dramatic moments, but Coulmier is always there to steady the proceeding and keep things under control. The Marquis de Sade is a character in his own play, coming on stage and discussing his philosophy with Marat. But, as Coulmier is quick to remind us at intermission, Sade is also a patient at the asylum, and a pathological liar, so maybe we shouldn’t take what he says too seriously.

Though written over forty years ago, Marat/Sade makes plenty of points that resonant in today’s political climate. The script is a bit too repetitive, and belabors the ironic statement that civilization has come so far since the events depicted. Still, this is a very strong production, energetic, well paced, and there is not a weak link in the entire ensemble.

3 stars


Anonymous said…
I first saw this show almost 40 years ago in a college production. Later saw a well-mounted community theatre production.
Every theatre enthusiast should see this once, if only so you will know the answer to the trivia question "What is the longest title of a play?"
--The Old Guy

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